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Well, this is one of those albums that everyone thinks about before it came out. I mean, after the incredibly fast nature of the first album, one of the fastest I had ever listened to, I had to wonder if they were going to mellow out and release some “normal” power metal
I needn’t have worried.
Opening with “my spirit will go on” this album blasts off at a million miles an hour. Not the fastest song on the album, but quite possibly the best. I say “not the fastest” but its still bloody fast! Very epic this one, mirroring “Valley of the damned” (the song) but far superior. Instantly the improvements in the band become clear. The production is much, much better. You can actually listen to this album on headphones and still hear the singer! And the guitar sound is much clearer also. Talking about the singer, he has improved ten fold since the first album. He doesn’t instantly go into scream mode when he hits the high notes like he did on the first album, but instead controls his voice much more. The Guitarists throw in masses of solo’s – Very fast solos, and the new drummer is just as intense as the old one!
After that, we hit “fury of the storm” fitting title as this one goes along even faster than the first. It also has some really cool sing along lyrics. Catchiness doesn’t exclude this lot! Then its “Fields of despair” starts rather more midpaced, well midpaced by this band is faster than anything Blind guardian ever did, so I suppose that is quite fast! Very good chorus as ususal, and then the speed well and truly picks up. Great song.
Then we hit the ballad “Dawn over a new world” I was fearing that there was going to be more than one ballad on here, as I couldn’t stand “starfire” off their first album. But this ballad owns it in every single respect. The melody is much more catchy, and it uses lots of piano work – one of the few things I find makes good ballads (c.f. gamma ray “a while in dreamland” for that) A very good ballad, with an interesting heavy guitar in it as well.
Back up to speed with “Above the winter moonlight” I wish they made a ballad on that synth intro, as that intro rules!!! Still, this is a belter of a track. Interesting lyrics as always (catchy) and very fast!
“Soldiers of the wasteland” follows, and this is the longest track on the album by a fair distance, being nearly ten minutes long. After an intro, we hit a machine gun guitar with a really cool keyboard melody and lots of orchestration following it. Despite its length, it doesn’t seem epic like “My spirit will go on” more, well, a ten minute long belter. Lots of guitar solos, lots of fun, great stuff.
“Prepare for war” is next. Different type song this one lots of duelling guitars start it off, with the drums giving a pounding tune. Very riffy in parts this one, rare for this band (its usually the solos that are the best bit of this band, but it’s the rhythm guitars here. It also has a mellow section in the middle, which is different I suppose, but its still got a good catchy melody which retains interest (iced earth, you could learn something here) and then it flies off at great speed once more.
Finally “once in a lifetime” This does remind me of “Valley of the damned” a lot this track, but it has a wonderful rhythm guitar intro, which sounds great, probably the most memorable Rhythm section on the album, before an equally memorable vocal section. A great end to a great album.
Problems? Not many really. Just like the first album, it can occasionally seem a little samey. That is a matter of taste, but 900 miles an hour through a song won’t work forever. True they did experiment somewhat on this one compared to the first, but they do need to broaden their horizons. Also, the lyrical matter though catchy, isn’t really saying anything, I like lyrics which tell a story, and these do not (though no where in the same league of crappy lyrics that Judas priest has)
All in all then, a great album, great stuff, go and get it!